TGIF: My “30 Going on 13” Moment


On forgotten business cards, my Jambalaya family and sleeping in the backseat of a minivan.

I got a promotion at work last year. Not the kind that results in a corner office, prime parking spot and stock options. But the kind where you get a moderate raise, a fancy title, continue to do your old job (with the dream of a replacement—“soon”), work longer hours and get a fresh stack of business cards.

I find the practice of swapping business cards archaic and awkward. Much like a good handshake, handing out a business card is an art form. I lack the prerequisite swagger needed to hand them out with any semblance of credibility.

This guy has swagger:

In stark contrast, I’ve got a lot more of this going on:

When I’m not moonlighting as a sandwich consultant, I work with engineers. In my experience, most engineers consider non-engineers, an overhead cost, and “a suit”.

Now add the fact that: I’m female (minority), younger to my peers (inexperienced), a communication major (fluff degree) with work experience in TV broadcasting (condescending smirk). Let’s just say, the odds are stacked against me.

My business card is the neon stamp of approval that grants me access to this otherwise members-only club.

Without it, I’m basically toast. This is where my story begins.


On the eve of a business trip to Toronto, I was working late at the office. Seriously sleep-deprived, I eventually packed my bags to go home but had a sneaking suspicion I was forgetting something important.

You know where this is going …

At the tail end of my 1.5-hour commute home, it dawned on me: I’d forgotten to grab my business cards.

I was catching an early morning flight, still had to pack, do laundry and make crucial changes to a presentation. This (this!) lapse in planning was a boo-boo of epic proportions.

While I wanted to go into a “Jim Carrey-esque” meltdown, i.e. slamming my head into the steering wheel, I started crying angry defeated tears instead.

How could I forget to pack them after my boss reminded me? All this work on a presentation and I wasn’t going to make a professional first impression! Nobody wants to be on the team with the person who “ran out of business cards.”

7:30 pm

After raging crying on my driveway for three minutes, I walked into the kitchen where my parents were eating dinner. Afraid I was going to burst into tears, I avoided eye contact and rinsed out my lunch Tupperware in the sink.

“I forgot to grab my business cards,” I said in a monotone Terminator voice. “I really needed them for my trip.”

“Do you have any extra cards at home?” my mom asked.

I exhaled and nodded my head, “No.” I served myself a plate of food, then headed up to my room.

7:45 pm

Back in the kitchen. I was washing my empty plate, when my dad, who was now munching on a fistful of sweet sticky dates said, “If you want to pick up the cards, I can drive you.”

I looked up at him tentatively and said, “But it’s an hour-and-a-half away …”

Half-chewing he replied, “That’s okay. There won’t be any traffic this time of the night.”

“Are you sure … ?” my voice trailed off.

My mom who was clearing the dinner table urged, “Go get dressed.”

Just as I was about to climb into the minivan, I noticed my mom standing right behind me with a pillow and a blanket.

“Get in the backseat,” she said handing me the pillow and the blanket. “You can rest on the drive there.”

“The family is a haven in a heartless world.”
– Christopher Lasch

You Can Rest

As I climbed in the van, I felt my knees buckle and my lips quiver.

The words, “You can rest,” made my head spin.

Remember that movie “13 going on 30” where Jennifer Garner plays a game on her 13th birthday and wakes up as a 30-year-old woman? Well, this moment, was the exact opposite.

Here I was, an able-bodied 30-year-old woman, in scuffed sneakers, an oversized hoodie, whimpering in the backseat of my parents’ minivan with a blankie. For crying out loud!

First I was crying, because I love the relationship my parents share. They truly enjoy each other’s company–whether it’s going to buy a bag of mulch for the backyard, or driving their adult daughter to pick up business cards in the middle of the night.

Then I was crying, because I realized they had loved 30-year-old me for as many years. Thirty years of being bailed out, taken care of and consoled. Thirty years of encouraging me, protecting me and looking out for me. Thirty years of (metaphorically) leaving the light on for my prodigal heart.

Sure, sometimes their “encouragement” felt like pressure, “protection” felt like suffocation and “looking out for me” sounded an awful lot like paranoia. But the bottom line was that these people–my parents–love me. They would go barefoot to hell and back for me.

What about people who don’t have a loving family?

I was semi-hypnotized by the streetlights whizzing by, when I realized we were driving through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), a.k.a. “the rough part” of town. Just outside the protected bubble of my minivan was screaming visual proof of poverty, drug use, prostitution, crime and violence.

In February, I was at the Justice Conference in Portland where I heard stories about lives that took a drastic turn for the worst because of emotionally unavailable parents.

Girls with parents who were caught up in numbing their own pain with alcohol, drugs or multiple sexual partners. Girls who had no one to call after running away from home, getting pregnant, date raped or overdosing. Girls who had no one to call from a gas station, bus stop or payphone.

So the girls went back to their:
… abusive boyfriends,
… pimps, and
… dealers.

They never stood a fighting chance.

A good friend often says, “When you have roots, you can have wings.” I need “the roots” of my family, who love me unconditionally “to have wings.” I needed a two-hour drive to grab my business cards in the middle of the night, so I could feel confident about giving a stellar presentation at work.

Driving through the DTES, I found my heart overflowing with gratitude for my mom and dad, who were happily chatting away, snacking on spicy fried peas in the front seat.

My family is a thick jambalaya of characters, who share food, bad jokes and the remote control. We celebrate birthdays, new jobs and great haircuts. We stand together in failure, heartbreak and buffet lineups. We sit through terrible high school plays, teary weddings and depressing waiting rooms. We parade around in our pajamas, talk with morning breath, tease each other, address fashion faux pas and wander through Walmart. We are fiercely protective, borderline codependent and wildly irrational when it comes to loving each other.  In a nutshell, their unconditional LOVE, gives me the courage to journey through the good, the beautiful and the downright ugly of LIFE.


So, dear ones …

– Who cares about your rest?
– Who needs you to show up for them with a pillowcase and a blankie?

Love you more than a comforting bowl of Coconut Shrimp Soup and Lady Apple Cardamom Cake,

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis


  1. “Sure, sometimes their “encouragement” felt like pressure, “protection”
    felt like suffocation and “looking out for me” sounded an awful lot like
    paranoia. But the bottom line was that these people–my parents–love me.
    They would go barefoot to hell and back for me.”

    Gosh, this was wonderful! The constant tension of being an adult but still being someone else’s child at the same time. Great story!

  2. It’s interesting. I just read this after reading about Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte habit of having one-night stands and then moving on to the next girl. A breathtakingly self-centered pattern apparently encouraged by his mother, who praises this selfishness as ‘considerate’ despite the fact that he is, at this point, the father of two girls. All I could think of was what a contrasting life those two girls will have with such a parent, what obstacles they will need to overcome with such a self-centred father.
    What a refreshing contrast reading about your parents who deserve a gold medal in the, less self-aggrandizing, Love Olympics, for all the support and love they show you. As do mine. This post was a loving tribute to your parents ( and like them, mine) who don’t get a lot of credit in the world, but who deserve a gold medal for their performance in life. Well, actually they have one: I think they would probably say YOU & your character are the reward they are most happy with. As they should be, you are golden indeed! 🙂 Keep writing Tina. Love your work!

  3. Love this 🙂 It is so important to have people in your life who care enough about your well-being to remind/encourage you to rest. Love the “borderline codependent” line- my parents and me in a nutshell 🙂

  4. Love this 🙂 It is so important to have people in your life who care enough about your well-being to remind/encourage you to rest. Love the “borderline codependent” line- my parents and me in a nutshell 🙂

  5. Being away from home, I always talk about my family, and our crazy antics, but you’ve summed it up perfectly with – ”We are fiercely protective, borderline codependent and wildly irrational when it comes to loving each other. ”
    P.S. I have Roots and so I have Wings! Brlliant

    This post made me realise that’s what I want to give my kids this crazy , protective, irrational Love.

  6. Anne Polonen says:

    Lovely. Heart warming. I have parents just like yours Tina and even today I was thinking how much I love them and appreciate them. Thanks for that wonderful article. Love you!

  7. Lilian mwai says:

    We all hold our family dear to us, but when someone takes time to remind us about our dear ones, we feel blessed and special, thanks for the article,,,,,,

  8. Teen! I’m bawling over here. This is so true of my parents. Their ordinary, every day, love is suffocating in the most loving, epic way. I read something about fathers the other day that made me realize’s not true of everyone’s dad but it is for both of our dads…my father is the only man who will always love me no matter what….no man in my life can ever offer that (inspite of brothers being the absolute wind beneath my wings)…no husband, no son….no one…only my father can love me so much…it kills me. My family is my refuge and safe space. My sanity in an insane world. Time with them is nourishment to my famished soul. They love me in sickness and health and till death do us apart.. Oh..and your family rules too…I totally love them! Hugs!

  9. Stacy Wiebe says:

    It happens when you’re 40, too. When your husband criss-crosses town in rush hour traffic to pay for the groceries, because you forgot your wallet at home. Grace.

  10. Loved this post, Tina. (My) Family is one of the things I hold nearest and dearest to my heart.

    Thanks for giving me a real taste of h o m e.

  11. Christa says:

    Oh wow Tina! As always what a wonderful post! I can resonate with you on all levels – from the blankets to pillows, sticky dates post-dinner, long drives with the family and parents, moms hugs while sick, and dad’s caramel custard. It’s funny – I’m 24 now and all around I hear people talk about independence and breaking away from the family. But I don’t think I would ever get myself to stay away from the most precious people in the world who’ve protected, nurtured, encouraged, and blessed me through the worst and best of times. We are blessed indeed with family! Looking forward to your next post Tina!
    Good luck on that conference – and got to hand out a ton of business cards 🙂

  12. Beautiful as always, Teen. The moment I got to your mom giving you the blanket and pillow and telling you to rest, I teared up. You are very blessed indeed!

  13. Great post, sweet Teen. You rock. Your mama and dad raised a beautiful woman!! She is my friend. Yay!

    Lotsa love,

  14. Sheetal says:

    Wow Teen. Just incredible. Felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude flood through me as I read this.

  15. What a lovely post Tina! I love your family and I have never met them, except for Sherrine of course. 🙂 You are a blessed woman. I hope that our family (mine and Chris’) looks something like that when Finn and our subsequent child(ren) are grown up. So great!

    As for your questions, I will have to ponder on those!

  16. Eliza B. says:

    I love this! And I absolutely know how you feel. As I was reading your article, I’d get flashbacks of similar “blankie-and-pillowcase” moments I’ve with my family and not just with my parents, but with my siblings too. There’s too many memories to really put into words here, but I consider that a blessing in itself.

    PS. Your family sounds amazing.

  17. whoever said that when you have roots you have wings.. is the god almighty family has been there through thick and thin. there has been some low points in life and i came out of it sane and at peace just because of family. i might not be rich, or happening in the sense of society but i have the greatest wealth my family… and i am ohhh soooo glad that its there with me. as usual Tina your words hit close to home. you are blessed to have your family and we are blessed to have you.

  18. Kelly Voros says:

    Once again, laughing, crying and lauging again. I just LOVE reading your stuff. You are lucky to have your family and they are lucky to have you.

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